If you can wade through the soporific strains of album opener Chasing Birds, which sounds like something George Harrison might have tried to palm off on The Traveling Wilburys – probably unsuccesfully – there is something of a (very) minor rockular reward awaiting your ears on this new Foo Fighters effort.
Cloudspotter harnesses the spirit of Jimi Hendrix in a partially pleasing experiment, but the new-wave tinges on Holding Poison are where you first sense that the band might be approaching something near top form; aided by a superbly sumptuous production that takes in The Cars by way of Queen in it’s efforts to impress, you’ll find the track genuinely exciting, and possibly quite surprising, which isn’t something this reviewer has ever particularly expected from Dave Grohl and company.
Whether that’s a little harsh or not as a semi-dismissive throwaway piece of snidely jaded ‘criticism’, it cannot be argued that the placement of Holding Poison at track three on the album does a lot to build goodwill for what follows. Love Does Young is a straightforward, uncomplicated slice of modern stadium rock that you’ll give a pass mark to whilst still smiling to yourself about Holding Poison, and much the same could be said for the angular, jutting guitar rock of Making A Fire.
Again, I may be selling the band a little short here as Making A Fire does possess a very serviceable chorus built around a rousing mix of gently swelling guitars and Grohl’s always-impressive vocalising. The title track, on the other hand, isn’t quite so successful; built around a low-key funk backdrop that remembers the Stones and INXS in equal measure it meanders it’s way to a semi-memorable chorus, buoyed again by a decent vocal from Grohl. And a guitar solo! For a band with three guitarists, Foo Fighters make little or no axe impact for the most part on this record. I realise it would be foolish to expect Skynyrdesque six string excess on every track, but a little more bustle in the guitar hedgerow might have been welcomed. Maybe Grohl, Smear and Shiflett were too busy offering colour and shape to things to worry about a bit of overkill…
But what was I saying? Here comes the album’s rocker in the form of the spritely No Son Of Mine, wherein Grohl summons up a Hetfieldian bellow. It’s a pretty mundane track, if truth be told, but in the context of a rather woozy album you’ll receive it as manna from the rock n’roll Gods, I assure you.
The final brace of tracks reverts back to the album’s default setting of well-crafted blandness; Shame Shame builds on a metronomic drum pattern from Taylor Hawkins, augmented by some solid bass belches from Nate Mendel, but closing track Waiting On A War simply drifts by on a sparse acoustic guitar, drum and piano-based cloud which threatens to explode into something rather epic but never really does.
At the end of the day, Dave Grohl or his band of brothers won’t give a tinkers cuss what we here at Sentinel Daily think of their music. And why should they? they aren’t making our kind of music after all; but it is a shame to hear a once-vital musician drowning in the ordinary, and very mundane music that makes up most of this album. And that needs saying, whether anyone is listening or not.
Medicine At Midnight is out now.